I had a quick chance to take a look at the renderings and photographs of the new Washington ballpark over at JDLand. I'd seen some of these renderings before, but it's nice to get a little bit of context.
It's also very cool to see what it looks like when a ballpark starts to emerge from barren land (check out the construction photos). If they ever start building our park, you'll see that type of documentation here.
Site plan for the new Nationals ballpark, with the size of the Rapid Park site overlaid
But I have to agree to a certain extent with John's comment below about the looks of this ballpark. I wouldn't exactly call it "ugly", but it will probably never be taken for "soaring architecture" either. In fact, I'm struck by it's blandness and utter lack of personality. It's a good thing that they're planning to install cherry trees, because without them, this building could only inspire yawns.
It has a very massive feel, and part of that is because it's being built on a site over twice as large (20 1/5 acres) as the Rapid Park site the Twins hope to use (see image)! That means there's lots of room to stretch out and build gigantic staircases, observation towers (which will presumably offer observation of only the passing traffic outside the park), and even a full office complex. This is one very large site on which will be built one very large ballpark.
In terms of design, it appears to have almost no facade -- at least no unifying theme around the outside (or the inside for that matter). The elevation diagrams show a building which reveals its skeleton (not necessarily a bad thing), and doesn't really strive to look like anything.
I know that architectural significance was discussed and eventually required when the financing for the park was passed, but that appears to have slipped by the wayside. There is nothing significant here, and almost nothing one might call "architecture". It appears to be pure engineering.
Of course, in that respect it would follow on the history of ballparks in Washington. Griffith Stadium looked like it was put together from a box of spare ballpark parts. (We should also acknowledge that the facade our own beloved Metropolitan Stadium was essentially some sprinklings of colored brick barely concealing rusty iron). I did notice that there are two roof heights, something which may be a nod to old Griffith Stadium.
Part of my dislike is the low and very squat profile. There are no soaring light standards, and only muted vertical lines of any kind. Ballparks, seen from the side, are all essentially short and wide buildings, but adding vertical components (usually having to do with the circulation of people to the various levels) can really make a difference in the overall character of a stadium.
A memorable example of such a detail is the tower built into Wrigley Field in LA. That park also featured flags along to outside perimeter, something you may notice if you look closely at some of the Washington drawings. Unfortunately, those little flags get completely lost in the massive bulk of the Nationals new park, where they really added a touch of flair in California. I think the Washington park really cries out for some unique architectural element to make it distinctive.
So, while the park looks functional, and any new ballpark is an exciting place, there's nothing here which really makes me want to say, "Wow!"
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3019 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The first completed mural
Solution for a hot night, just inside Gate 34 (that's a cool mist, by the way, not hot steam, which would be kind of cruel)
First, an overview. The base of the plaza here will meet the base of Sixth Street at Second Avenue.
The New as viewed from The Old.
Detail enclosing the main ticket window area
A sampling of seats at Fenway Park
Near the end of the Angels' 4-run second inning.
Steps, skyway, and plaza intersect.
This is where the main ticket office will be.
The flowers don't have quite the fullness depicted in the original sketches (where they were positively overflowing), but they are quite lovely -- a great, subtle touch. And that's probably a very challenging place to grow anything.
Work on the pavilion in center.
A beautiful, glowing sunset after the rain.
This is a little section of what looks like a finished foundation. It will be approximately below the Pro Shop (I think).
Two concepts here remain in the final design. First is the oddly-shaped pavilion in center. Second is the section just above the right field fence. In the current design this section will hang over the field by a few feet. The original doesn't do that, but you can see that the concept goes way back in the planning.
From the best seat in the house (Section 8, Row A), the right field corner is blocked. (No one may care. Fine with me. People should know.)
One of the sweetest sights of the day -- the Dome, and only through passing bus windows.
At left, across the tracks by that pile of dirt is where the Northstar commuter train platform will be built, and where Twins fans will apparently NOT be able to get a train after night games. (For reference, that's the Fifth Street bridge, with the ballpark site just beyond it. The east corner of Ford Centre is just visible at the right edge of the picture.)
Section 331, Row 9
Love the red flowers -- just like the original concept drawings. That NEVER happens.
Look closely and you'll see limestone on the front of the press box!
In case you don't know, that's Earl Battey.
Snow-blowing the field
The season was perfectly bookended by Mick Sterling on the plaza
At one point, we thought these windows might represent one of the so-called knotholes. But nope. Nothing to see here. (Nearest I can tell, there will be no view of the playing field whatsoever from the Seventh Street sidewalk.)
A little ground's crew action in the first inning the other night.